Archive for September, 2008

CC Deserves the Hardware

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

CC Sabathia screamed from the Miller Park mound Sunday as the final out was recorded. It was the exclamation point on a historic stretch of pitching that carried a postseason-starved team to the playoffs.

Now, days later as baseball pundits debate who deserves the Cy Young Award in the National League, I cringe as the talking heads continuously brush CC away as a non-contender because he only spent a little more than 12 weeks in the NL with the Brewers.

First off, where is the definition of Cy Young that says all of a pitcher’s stats must be accumulated in one league to be considered for either league’s award? The best explanations of the award that I can find say it goes to the “best” or “most valuable” pitcher in each league. That’s a very subjective definition, but who could possibly debate that CC was not the “best” or “most valuable” pitcher in National League this season?

Take a look at what he did as a Brewer:

  • He went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA.
  • The Brewers were 15-2 in the 17 games he started.
  • He had more complete games individually in his half season as a Brewer than any team had collectively in the entire National League for the season.
  • He averaged 7.7 innings a start.
  • He threw three complete-game shutouts and another complete game in which he allowed zero earned runs.
  • He allowed less than one home run per 20 innings pitched.
  • He had a strike-out-to-walk ratio of better than 5:1.
  • In his last three starts, when the team needed him the most, he pitched on short rest.
  • He had a 0.83 ERA in those three starts.
  • Admittedly, it may not be fair to compare only that half season of work against other pitchers’ entire seasons. Brandon Webb was 9-0 in his first nine starts, after all. But even when comparing CC’s whole season against the rest of the pitchers in the NL, he was the most dominant.

    C. Sabathia, MIL - 17 wins, 25 QS, 251 K, 2.7 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 10 CG, 253 INN

    J. Santana, NYM - 16 wins, 28 QS, 206 K, 2.53 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 3 QS, 234.3 INN

    T. Lincecum, SF - 18 wins, 26 QS, 265 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 2 CG, 227 INN

    B. Webb, ARI - 22 wins, 24 QS, 183 K, 3.3 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 3 CG, 226.7 INN

    R. Dempster, CHI - 17 wins, 21 QS, 187 K, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1 CG, 206.7 INN

    CC was first in all of baseball in complete games, innings pitched and games started. If you consider his entire season’s stats, he finished second in the NL in strikeouts and third in quality starts. And he had the fourth lowest ERA and third lowest WHIP of starting pitchers in the Senior Circuit.

    Perhaps most importantly, most of the other Cy Young candidates are sitting at home right now, watching the playoffs. In the past, “pitching for a winner” has been a major qualification for Cy Young winners. Brewers fans know this well as Ben Sheets was robbed of a Cy Young in 2003 despite racking up 264 strikeouts and a 2.7 ERA in 237 dominate innings. This year, Brandon Webb folded down the stretch to the tune of a 5.7 ERA in his last seven starts as the D-Backs fell short of the postseason. Johan Santana pitched excellent, but watched his team crumble around him. And Tim Lincecum pitched well for a horrible team that had no chance of playing in October even as April began. The only NL playoff pitcher receiving Cy Young consideration is Dempster, who somehow became the Cubs’ ace this season. Despite Dempster’s brilliant year, Sabathia has better stats in nearly every category, some significantly better.

    Furthermore, there is precedent for awarding the Cy Young to a pitcher who switched leagues in the middle of the season. Rick Sutcliffe won the award as a Cub in 1984 after being traded from the Indians. Sabathia pitched less than 20 fewer innings in the NL than Sutcliffe and his numbers were even more dominant.

    R. Sutcliffe, CHIC, 1984 - 20 starts, 16-1, 15 QS, 155 K, 2.69 ERA, 1.078 WHIP, 7 CG, 150.1 INN

    C. Sabathia, MIL, 2008 - 17 starts, 11-2, 17 QS, 128 K, 1.65 ERA, 1.003 WHIP, 7 CG, 130.7 INN

    No matter how you quantify his season, Sabathia was the best pitcher in the NL this year. Hell, he was the best pitcher in baseball. Giving the Cy Young to anyone else would be a travesty and would depreciate one of baseball’s most dominate stretches of pitching ever.

    Luckily for CC and Brewers fans, he’s more worried about earning some team hardware right now than a personal award. The selfless ace will go on short rest for a fourth straight time Thursday in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Phillies, further cementing his place in Brewer lore.

    Thanks, CC.

    Sveum’s World

    Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

     

    Sveum - All right, welcome to the show! I am your most excellent host Dale Sveum. With me, as usual, is Garth Iorg. Party on Garth!

    Garth - mumble mumble Sveum.

    Sveum - Alright, excellent. So before we bring out our guest, let’s count down our top Swingers of the year! I brought my top 3 and Garth brought his, right?

    Garth - mumble mumble Sveum

    Sveum - Dude, you forgot? Don’t go squirrely on me man. Didn’t you get my messages?

    Garth - Well, mumble mumble mumble, Sveum

    Sveum - What do you mean you didn’t understand my signs? You’ve been my third base dude for, like, two weeks now? Not cool, dude, not cool.

    Garth - mumble

    Sveum - No no, I forgive you Garth….Asphincter says what?

    Garth - mumble

    Sveum - Hahaha..Ok, alright…so without further adieu, here’s my top three Swingers: Swinger number three is J.J. Hardy.

    Garth - mumble mumble mumble chuckle mumble

    Sveum - Pschya, he’s not the only one who gets your mom hardy. Alright, alright. My number two swinger is Prince Fielder. You know, that switch to Boca totally helped the man….NOT

    Garth - mumble chuckle NOT chuckle mumble

    Sveum - Ok dude, keep your pants on. And my number one swinger of the year is Ryan Braun. Let’s give him the Sveum’s World swinger salute: Saa-Wing

    Garth - Mum-Ble

    Sveum - Ok, so it’s totally time to bring out today’s guest. Today’s guest is none other than the guy who single handedly might have given me a job next year: C.C. Sabathia! Welcome to Sveum’s world C.C.! WE ARE NOT WORTHY. WE ARE NOT WORTHY!

    Sabathia - Get up, get up. You’re worthy

    Sveum - Alright, excellent. You, of course, know Garth.

    Sabathia - Not really, but…

    Sveum - Alright, cool, totally. Wait…hear that?

    Sabathia - Hear…what?

    Sveum - EXTREME CHAMPAGNE!!!! WOOOOOOOOOAAAAAHHHH!!!

    Garth - woooooooaaahhhh!!!!

    Sveum - WOOOOOOOAAAAAHHHH!!!! Alright, cool, yeah. Alright, so C.C., um, I’d like to say thanks for being totally god-like. I bet you’re like mad hooking up with some Milwaukee Babeage.

    Sabathia - Well, I’m kind of married.

    Sveum - Ex-squeeze me? No way.

    Sabathia - Way.

    Sveum - No WAY!

    Sabathia - WAY

    Sveum - Well, thanks for coming to Milwaukee, and you know, for helping us get into the postseason and all. That’s all the time we have for this week. Enjoy the playoffs! Until next time, party on Milwaukee!!

    The Underdog Came Out On Top

    Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

    Great to see the Brewers get it done. It really wouldn’t have been too exciting if they would have just rolled into the playoffs. That is why sports is so compelling. It cannot be scripted.

    You had all kinds of drama this past weekend, but in the end, the good guys won. It reminded me of the finish to the movie “Hoosiers.” The small high school defying the odds to outlast the Amazin’ Mets. The quotes coming out of New York were of a team that felt their team overachieved. Disappointed, yes, but from a team that will be moving into a state-of-the-art facility and vast amounts of revenue the Brewers cannot match. If the Brewers came up short, the fallout would have been severe. The underdog won…

    Respect for the Pitching

    I really gained a ton of respect for five pitchers this past weekend for the Crew.

    1. CC Sabathia — Looking at the biggest contract for a pitcher in the history of the game. He pitches another complete game, in the biggest game of the season. Tough pitches all the way through as the playoffs are usually max-effort-type pitches. Third start in a row on three days rest, now looking at possibly as many as seven more starts on an already taxed workload. Anyone who ever thinks that players are all about the money haven’t been paying attention to what this guy is putting on the line. Don’t you think CC’s agent, the Yankees, Mets, Angels Dodgers and the MLB Players Association cringes every time they hear CC is going again on three days’ rest? What he has done for this team has put his own personal issues to the side for the good of the Crew. Trust me when I tell you that every player in the Majors has taken notice of what CC has done. The respect he has gained from his peers will be talked about for a long, long time.

    2. Ben Sheets – The free agent to be showed his true character by trying to take the ball on Saturday against the Cubs. He knew his arm was worn down and sore, but still put his own personal issues to the side and tried to step up one more time in possibly his last start as a Brewer. He had so many great games, but saved his best performance as a pro for the game on Saturday.

    3. Manny Parra — He rebounded nicely in relief on Saturday. Pitching in a meaningful spot, Manny put aside some of his struggles in the last six weeks to step up and pitch like a seasoned veteran.

    4. David Bush — This guy has pitched out of relief, back in the minors, started, pitched on a swinging fifth man rotation and for the last two months has been one of the top ten pitchers in baseball. So he gets asked to piggyback Ben Sheets, doesn’t gripe about again being bumped and goes out and throws three no-hit innings to give the team a chance to win.

    5. Yovani Gallardo — First Playoff game since 1982 goes to this young stud. What poise he has to come back in the pennant race to not only pitch but have very little rust or psychological hangover from his injury. The Brewers may lose two star pitchers at the end of this unbelievable season, but Gallardo and Parra have established themselves as two that can continue this run into ’09.

    Playoff Matchup

    The Brewers were ripe for the picking three weeks ago after a 3-7 homestand. Both teams start from scratch again. If anything, CC’s performance could give the Crew a slight advantage in momentum going in. When teams slump their isn’t much you can do except ride it out. Like a cold, it is going to last seven days and there is nothing you can do to prevent it.

    That being said, the Brewers still are not swinging the bats very well as a whole. Prince has been absolutely carrying this squad on his back. Look for the Phillies, even with Hamels and especially Moyer, to pitch around Fielder and test his discipline. The same goes for Howard on the other side.

    It will be interesting to see Gallardo attack a good offensive team in a smaller ballpark. He is a strikeout, flyball pitcher. Love his poise. Nothing seems to faze this kid. He misses all of spring training, throws a gem against the Reds in Cincy. Look for the Phillies to test Yo’s durability and nerves on the grand stage.

    The batters for the Crew have been in another funk at the plate. They looked like they had gotten out of it the last two series on the road. But guys like Maholm, Duke and Lilly really gave the hitters fits at the plate. Not good considering they will face Hamels twice and Moyer once in this best of five. With Hamels they have to attack the fastball early in the count as to not let him get to his changeup, which is one of the best. The Brewers have seen him twice this season and really had some great at bats against him in that Saturday game in Philly.

    Moyer, is a tougher matchup than Hamels because of his ability to change speeds with a still unreal changeup. Hopefully the Brewers hitters will realize that Moyer is only throwing 81 mph and move up in the box and stand on top of the plate. Take away his bread-and-butter changeup that fades off the outside corner of the plate. Hart, Hall, Cameron and Braun all need to dare him to throw inside to get them out. If nothing else, Moyer, who is a great study of hitters’ tendencies, will have to learn on the fly as the hitters will look different to what he has seen from them on video. The problem is young hitters are stubborn and don’t want to get out of their comfort spots in the batters box.

    Brett Myers has pitched very well this second half, think Dave Bush. Myers pitched a complete game against the Crew last time out. But that is a bit deceiving. The Crew had nothing left in the tank the fourth game of the series. It didn’t matter who was pitching for the Brewers (Suppan) or who was pitching against the Crew (Myers). If you know anything about momentum, you realized that the Brewers had no chance in that one.

    I think Gallardo, CC and Bush can get it done this series. The bats need to come alive though. I think the pitching will be fine.

    The bullpen edge goes to the Phillies only because of Lidge. He is a strikeout pitcher who has the best slider in the game. Only guys like Pujols can get him, or Braun also has.

    I think that the Phillies have the edge on the bench too. They have Dobbs, who has become the best pinch hitter in the National League. The Brewers have Durham, who has really had some big hits down the stretch.

    Nostalgia anyone?

    Geoff Jenkins will be on the active roster for the Phillies in this series. Jenks, a fan favorite in Milwaukee, is beyond happy for the community and the guys on the team. He is also going to get himself off a dubious list — most games played without appearing in a playoff game for active Major Leaguers. I know this one well as I was ahead of him last year. The fans of Milwaukee probably won’t be as warm this time around, but for only this little bitty series.

    Send in Your Rants!

    I will be covering the games on FSN postgame Brewers Live with Craig Coshun. We will do a complete breakdown of Game 1 and have interviews and manager comments following the game. The show will start after the last pitch and run for an hour. Please help me with some comments for a Rant. Leave your comments on this post and I will choose one that I like.

    Nostalgia Two

    It is ironic that the guy the fans booed so much would end up being so loved. Thanks, Wes Helms!

    Sunday’s Masterpiece

    Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

    It was early in the eighth inning Sunday when the walls of cautious optimism came crashing down, making way for waves of unbounded excitement.

    “Helms hit a home run!” Bryan shouted in disbelief. Stunned, I repeated the phrase at least a half dozen times until I was sure everyone around me was as euphorically shocked as I was.

    Wes Helms? The object of nearly every Brewers fans venom over the last five years? Wes F-ING Helms just pushed Milwaukee closer to its first postseason birth in 26 years?

    Baseball is poetic and we were witnessing a freakin’ masterpiece.

    I shook with anxious excitement. Resting my hands on the railing to calm my nerves, I glanced at Johnny and saw it in his eyes too. He gave me a knowing nod. This was happening and everyone inside Miller Park knew it.

    As if we were in a movie war scene, time seemed to move at half speed with the muffled sounds of anticipation providing the soundtrack to Ryan Braun’s stride toward home plate. My thoughts wandered to the top of the inning, when I had pointed at Braun and nodded as he walked to his spot in left field. “Let’s do this,” I had said, desperately inaudible over the sellout crowd. He nodded. I was sure it was toward me. I was sure he knew every single one of us would give anything to will our team into the postseason for the first time in over a quarter century.

    CRACK!

    The baseball exploded off Braun’s bat into the humid air. As it sailed higher, we held our breath in hope. We prayed it would never come down.

    And then we blew the roof off the place.

    The rest of the day blurred by in perfect fashion. We witnessed Sabathia continue his run of dominance with another complete game. We watched the Marlins put the finishing touches on another Mets’ collapse on the big screen. We saw our team spraying champagne and dancing through falling streamers. We laughed. We screamed. We jumped up and down. We high-fived. We hugged. We cried.

    Twenty six years of disappointment, gone in one instant.

    And every bit as incredible as I dreamed.

    At the Helms of Stabbing Wesward: The Story of an Able Bodied Former Foe.

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

     

    Alexander. Cut and Print.

    Before yesterday, I would wager that Wes Helms was maybe in the top five most hated Brewers of all time. And before yesterday, it was completely warranted. From his breakout season hitting 23 dingers and 67 ribs the year after we acquired him from the Braves for bullpen favorite Ray King; a Ray King-type hurler the caliber of whom we would not see the likes of again… until we re-aquired Ray King in 2007.

    Following Helms’ ‘03 season, the Brewers inked him to a lucrative 2-year deal worth, at that point,  a crippling purse of $4.5 million. The contract reportedly forced Wendy Selig Preib to surrender her beloved name brand Crunch Berries in exchange for a more economically sound purchase of Berry Colossal Crunch. To give an idea of what that contract would convert to in 2008, Wes Helms would have inked a 10-year 165 million deal.

    Sacrifices were made

    If his epic homerun didn’t change your mind, I don’t blame you. But I am writing in attempt to convince you begrudging fans to release one Wesley Ray Helms from Brewers’ purgatory. Forget that Helms never played 100 games in a season after he received what seemed like a monumental contract. Forgive that he added a mere 8 homers and 0 defense after his said payday. So what if he exaggerated his injury in the 2005 tarp incident, only to mask the real injury which occurred while he moonlighted as Val Kilmer’s fat stunt double for the movie “Alexander.”

    Disregard the fact that his only meaningful spuds in the following years were ones that vanquished the Brewers. I guess what I’m getting at is 3 years of douchebagary can be overlooked by one majestic deed. 

    Wes, thank you. You’ve done more for the Brewers in a different jersey than Bill Hall has done all year. 

    So…Kewl Beans?

    Ned Yost, You Are Not Forgotten

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

    I know many Brewers fans think the reason the Crew made the playoffs is because of the departure of Ned Yost. While the firing of Ned may have caused some kind of spark, I can’t help but completely disagree. I can speak for most, if not all, of Right Field Bleachers in thanking Ned Yost for his role in the Brewers organization.

    Ned Yost was undoubtedly influental in the turn around of this organization. I cannot say I agreed with all of his decisions, but I don’t think he made nearly as many mistakes as people think. Ned is a smart baseball man and will certainly find himself on another staff likely as soon as next season.

    To assume this team would have been even better had Yost been fired earlier is ridiculous. No matter how good the team, if Yost was as bad as people made him out to be, the Brewers would not have been in the position they were. I believe this wholeheartedly. So while many a Brewers fan continue to look poorly upon Ned Yost, I say Thank You, Ned and the best of luck!

    InReview - Wild Card Edition

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

     

     

    Â This Week's Photo: Winning Game #162

     

     

    Things I LOVE:

    - It took my entire life for this to happen and when it did, a tear did come to my eye. This is what it feels like, to be a fan watch their team win and start to pour champagne over each other.

    - Everyone. We, as fans, may be hard on some players (deservedly so at times), but make no doubt that we are thankful to each and every one of them. Yes, even you Bill Hall.

    - C.C. Sabathia cementing his “lore” in Milwaukee. Thank you C.C., for giving me an amazing story to tell my kids someday.

    - The heroes: Ryan Braun and C.C. Sabathia for obvious reasons. Prince Fielder for basically carrying the team for a two week stretch. Yovanni for rehabbing hard and throwing like an ace for 4 innings, McClung for dominating the Cubs on Friday, Rickie for being just “the next person” to step up big, Coffey for coming up huge even with no future on the team, Gagne for buying tickets as if to say “I’m sorry, but I’m stepping it up”,

    - On Sunday, it was at least 75% Brewer fans

    - Seth McClung for being shut down one day and then hilarious on Sunday. I mean COME ON. How many more people love Seth McClung after this week? That’s a lot of hands in the air

    - Finally, to the Mets and Marlins. Thank you Marlins for playing hard (and playing spoiler). And Mets fans, we’ve waited a HELL of lot longer for this than you

    Things I Don’t:

    - I’m not going to be negative this week. It’s been a huge roller coaster ride, one we’ve only felt once before as Brewers fans. The last time turned out to be sour, but this time turns out to be oh so sweet.

    Numbers of the Week:

    1.65 - C.C.’s ERA for the Brewers which will be engraved into our minds forever now

    1992 - Last time the Brewers were at the 90 win mark

    .262 - 2007 Brewers batting average

    .253 - 2008 Brewers batting average

    BUT

    4.41 - 2007 Brewers team ERA

    3.87 - 2008 Brewers team ERA

     

    Some Year End Ranks:

    12th and 25th - NL and ML rankings for team Batting Average (.253)

    3rd and 5th - NL and ML rankings for team home runs (198)

    6th and 14th - NL and ML rankings for team OPS (.757)

    2nd and 4th - NL and ML rankings for team ERA (3.85)

    3rd and 8th - NL and ML rankings for Team Opposing Batting Average (.256)

    8th and 16th - NL and ML rankings for Team Fielding Percentage (.984)

    To Those No Longer With Us

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

    With Milwaukee’s playoff push going down to the final moment of the season before being ultimately made good upon, it took the contributions of many to be delivered – some of which who will not accompany the club into the playoffs.

    With the roster to again dwindle down to its usual 25 men, I thought it appropriate to recognize the efforts of two players who were brought in to help bring a team to the next level, a level they knew without doubt they would not be a part of.

    On Sept. 5, five days after roster expansions, the Brewers announced the acquisition of Mike Lamb. In 81 games with the Twins this season, Lamb hit an embarrassing .233 with just 32 RBI before being handed his walking papers. When Lamb was brought in, many fans wondered why he was brought in, and why he was brought when only eligible to be on the roster for less than a month.

    Lamb didn’t exactly dazzle in limited opportunities, but he didn’t make idiots of Brewers management either. In just 11 ABs, he had three hits, two runs, a walk here and there, and kept the ball in play in all but one plate appearance, as he struck out just once. A .273 clip in 11 at bats wasn’t anywhere close to deciding Milwaukee’s fate, but I felt better pinch hitting him in the pennant race over a less proven, or equally unflattering option. In all, he proved a no-risk option yielding some reward. 

    Todd Coffey makes a much easier case as a wise playoff-ineligible signing. The aged ginger hurler stunk his way out of Cincinnati with a 6.05 in 17 Emerald City appearances this season. He was then brought in on Sept. 10 to add depth and experience to a fledgling Brewers bullpen. 

     Coffey posted a 0.00 ERA during his nine appearances (spanning 7.1 innings). He gave up just six hits, two walks while vastly improving on his career K/IP ratio in chalking seven punchouts in almost as many frames of work. These numbers were not obtained in garbage time or meaningless games. Coffey was thrust into the flames bases-loaded jams and hearts of orders, only to work out of each scenario unscathed.

    Though these players will be watching the team they shared champagne with at home this October, they should look at themselves and know they had a hand in what this team has done, and in what the team still has the opportunity to do.  

    Mike Lamb and Todd Coffey were brought in too late, but in my opinion, it’s better late than never.

    26 Years of Frustration - Get Up, Get Up, Get Outta Here, GONE!

    Monday, September 29th, 2008

    I was at the game yesterday and I can’t even begin to recount how incredible it was. I’ll certainly try, but I’m not sure I have the words to describe the instantaneous release of 26 years of frustration.

    I’m at work so I have to make this brief, but I just wanted to let you all know we’ll be hitting the posts hard this evening and throughout the playoffs. The four of us that were able to go to the game took a bit of a vacation day yesterday to revel in what will surely go down as one of the greatest sports moments in our lives.

    We’ll be back in full force tonight. I promise.

    Twenty-Six Years

    Sunday, September 28th, 2008

    26 years.

    A span of time that found America under the watch of four different presidents and taking part in two wars; a period where so much has changed throughout the world and the only seemingly static thing was the postseason inactivity of the Milwaukee Brewers. Until today.

    Since the team I love last competed in the playoffs, they have switched leagues, they play in a new stadium, have a new owner and have endured numerous losing campaigns with some of the sorriest players to ever be deemed professional athletes.

    Remember, if you’ll allow yourself, the constant seller’s mentality, the 100-loss 2002 season, Ricky Bones, the annual battle with Pittsburgh for 5th place, Davey Lopes. Look back at the Ben Grieve/John Vanderwall right field platoon, Kevin Seitzer serving as Milwaukee’s requisite All-Star, the futile excitement over past-prime players like Marquis Grissom and Royce Clayton. Reminisce of the days when Opening Day marked the first and last County Stadium sellout annually and .500 baseball was something to gloat about.

    Think about the recurring feeling of deflation in seeing Greg Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz and Richie Sexson depart. Look back to see Geoff Jenkins as the sole beacon of a franchise. Think of the past 26 years of Milwaukee Brewers baseball and every disappointment your allegiance to this team has conveyed. Look at today knowing it was well worth the wait.

    When Ryan Church flied out to end the Mets’ season, I was moved to tears. It might just be the Wild Card and, yes, this feat only marks the beginning of a quest for something much greater. But I wasn’t alive in 1982, and I grew up cheering for a losing team. To many of us these sensations and the concept of baseball in October are foreign.

    Remember today as the first time in 26 years when the last day of the season marked the eve of another season’s beginning. Savor this moment and hold it tightly, wrap yourself in it – don’t blink. I’ve never seen champagne showers in Brew City, and it may be a long time before it happens again… but I’m not thinking about that right now, I’m not thinking about the Philadelphia Phillies or Ben Sheets likely having thrown his last pitch in a Brewers uniform.

    Right now, I’ll just be thinking about today – the day the Milwaukee Brewers became a playoff team. A day I will never forget, a day that took 26 years to get here.

    Insomniac Ink